Potter, Philip Cipriani Hambly (DNB00)

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POTTER, PHILIP CIPRIANI HAMBL[E]Y (1792–1871), musician, born in London on 2 Oct. 1792, was godson of a sister of Giovanni Battista Cipriani [q. v.], the painter and teacher of music; his uncle was a well-known flute-player. At the age of seven Potter began to study music under his father, passing later under the care of Attwood, Crotch, Wölfl (pianoforte), and, it is said on doubtful authority, Dr. John Wall Callcott [q. v.] When the Philharmonic Society was instituted in March 1813, Potter became an associate, and, six months later, on attaining his majority, a member. He made his first public appearance under the auspices of that society on 29 April 1816, when he played the pianoforte in a sestet of his own composition; a month earlier the society had produced an overture which they had commissioned from him. In March of the following year he played a concerto of his own at the same concerts, but his works seem to have disappointed expectation, and he left England to study in Vienna. There he was a pupil of Aloys Förster, and became personally acquainted with many of the illustrious musicians of the day, including Beethoven, who wrote flatteringly of him to Ries (5 March 1818). After a stay of sixteen months in Vienna, Potter spent some time in Germany and Italy before returning to London in 1821. On 12 March of that year he played Mozart's D minor concerto at a Philharmonic concert in London.

When the Royal Academy of Music opened its doors in March 1823, Potter was appointed principal professor of the pianoforte there. In the following year his first symphony was played at a Philharmonic concert, and in 1827 he became director of the orchestral classes and conductor of the public concerts at the Royal Academy. On the retirement of Dr. William Crotch [q. v.] from that institution in 1832, Potter succeeded him as principal, a post he continued to hold until 1859, when he resigned all his appointments there. A presentation of plate was made him, and an exhibition bearing his name founded at the academy (cf. Corder, Royal Academy of Music, p. 127).

Potter ranked high among contemporary pianists, and to him is due the credit of having introduced into England Beethoven's concertos in C minor (1824) and G (1825) at the Philharmonic Society's concerts. For that society he wrote his own symphony in A minor, which was produced in 1833. Potter (though at first having no sympathy with Schumann's style) was one of the earliest English editors of that composer's works (for Wessel in 1857), and championed them at a time when the most prominent critics failed to recognise their excellences. He at length ‘seemed to set up a standard from the works of Schumann, by which he judged everything else which was presented to him with the exception … of Brahms’ (Musical Association's Proceedings, 10th Session, p. 54).

Potter was an auditor of the Bach Society, founded in 1849; conductor of the Madrigal Society from 1855 to 1870; treasurer of the Society of British Musicians, 1858 to 1865; and he frequently acted as conductor of the Philharmonic concerts. He is said to have been a very efficient conductor, and to have never used a bâton, but to have conducted with his naked hand. His last appearance in public took place on 10 July 1871, when he played one of the two pianofortes at the first performance of Brahms's ‘Requiem’ in England. Potter died on 26 Sept. 1871, and was buried on the seventy-ninth anniversary of his birthday. A portrait of him by Bendixen and Seguin was published in 1838.

Though his published works extend to Opus 29, they are rarely heard nowadays. They include nine symphonies, four overtures, three pianoforte concertos, chamber music including a sestet, Op. 11, three trios, Op. 12, and some string quartets; pianoforte studies in all the keys written for the Royal Academy of Music; an Italian cantata founded upon Byron's ‘Corsair;’ and additional accompaniments to Handel's ‘Acis and Galatea,’ a stage version of which was produced at the Queen's Theatre in 1831 under George Macfarren [q. v.] He was sometimes taunted with being a ‘servile imitator of Beethoven and others, and that he sacrificed too much for originality’—a feature which it is not easy to recognise in his works (Georgian Era, iv. 533). As a teacher and as principal of the Royal Academy, he exercised considerable influence among contemporary English musicians. He edited Mozart's pianoforte works, and, among literary papers, was author of ‘Recollections of Beethoven’ (Musical World, 29 April 1836) and ‘Hints on Orchestration’ (ib. 1836–7).

[Authorities already cited; the Panegyric by the late Sir G. A. Macfarren, in the Proceedings of the Musical Association, bears testimony to Potter's popularity among his past pupils, &c.; Cox's Musical Recollections, i. 76, 333; Quarterly Mus. Rev. passim; Grove's Dict. of Music and Musicians, each of the four vols. and App.; Life of G. A. Macfarren, by H. C. Banister, pp. 6, 19 et seq., 35, 112, 166; Imperial Dict. of Biography.]

R. H. L.